Our two day passage to Nukalofa
was a success, which translates to nothing significant broke and no one got hurt. Actually, day 1 was what
I consider a perfect day of sailing. We had moderate wind on the beam, calm seas, and we averaged between
5-6 knots all day. On day 2, the wind died and we ended up motor sailing all day.
This place is completely different from
Vava’u where everything was focused around the cruising community. Here, there really isn’t
a cruising community. We are one of 3-4 boats, which are making their way to New Zealand.
The nicest anchorage is at a nearby motu with what appears to be a day resort. We started out there,
but the 1.5 mile dingy ride to town gets a bit choppy, so we moved closer in today. Yesterday was our day for exploring the town. Kim and
I were both struck by how big the town seemed to us. It really isn’t very big at all.
Nukalofa is the capitol of Tonga, and it has all of the government “trappings”, which seems like a little
bit of overkill for a country of 100,000. The royal palace is beautiful, but rumor has it that
the king does not actually live there any longer. You can see a lot of evidence of the rioting in the city
that took place a few years back. At that time, the king promised to pursue democracy, but he is still
very much in control. The
open air market with fresh fruits and vegies and native crafts is the largest we have seen. The Tongans
are best known for their wood carvings and woven products.On our first day, the entire town turned out to welcome home the returning Tongan rugby team. Unfortunately,
we did not know this in advance, so we were the only people in town not wearing red. They were greeted
with a parade, the military band, games, festivities and all of this for a team that did not win! Our friend, Harold, arrives tomorrow night. We need
to purchase diesel (a lot of diesel), we will buy provisions and if the weather cooperates, we begin our passage to New Zealand
this weekend. Here we go again.
S/V Georgia J
Anchored at Latitude
21 08.138 S , Longitude 175 11.179 W
|Royal Palace in Nukalofa
|Big Mama's Resort by Pangaimotu Island
|Damaged pepper grinder improved with duct tape & vise grips
I awoke this morning at 4:00 am and
began preparing the boat for our voyage. At 4:30, church bells all over Neifu began ringing.
When they didn't stop, I became concerned that this was some sort of warning. I turned on the radio and prepared to leave
for deep water if a Tsunami was approaching. At 5:00 am, I began to hear beautiful three part
harmonies from the church choirs that this part of the world is famous for. The Wesleyan missionaries were amazingly successful
to convert these people from cannibalism to devote Christians who show up for choir practice at 5:00
am on Friday mornings.
By 6:30 am we were out of the harbor. As we raised
the main sail, hundreds of flying foxes, the giant bats, flew over the boat undoubtedly returning from a night of evil endeavors.
Sharon particularly dislikes bats. In years past, I have saved her from two hotel bats while she hid under the covers. However,
the flying foxes have wing spans of 2-3 feet, not the 2-3 inch bats I had battled in the past. Not knowing their diet, we
thought it prudent to stow Plato out of sight.
Today has been a glorious sail past
many islands, reefs and a smoking volcano. Tongan waters are poorly charted with the last
survey done in the 1890's. The wind angle has allowed us to stay on our course line away from all danger with waves of
only about 3 feet. We should reach the capital city of Nukalofa tomorrow afternoon. Our friend Harold arrives next week. We
hope to leave for the long trip to New Zealand as soon as a weather window allows.
s/v Georgia J
Position 19 19.58 s, 174 33.5 W at 03:00 UTC on 9/30/11
knots, Course 203 M, on a beam reach with winds of 13 knots
|This is how we will find New Zealand
Sharon's Log 9/25/11
Rain for three
days drove cruisers into Nieafu from the anchorages and kept Kim and I from departing. At the first break in the rain, we
headed off. Relying on advice from a long time cruiser who had been here before, we selected an anchorage which offered good
protection from the weather and seemed off the beaten path a bit. Vava'u offers dozens to choose from. Yesterday afternoon
we pulled into one of the most beautiful anchorages we have ever seen, and we are astounded that we are the only boat in the
anchorage! The cove is surrounded by tall wooded cliffs. Reminiscent of the Pacific Northwest in some ways, we feel like we
are guests in a bird sanctuary. All evening we enjoyed a chorus of bird songs. One took me back to my youth, growing up on
the farm, listening to the call of the "whip or whill". At sunset, the tree frogs took over with their loud call
which sounds very much like a host of crickets. We were joined briefly by a couple of very small Tongan fishing boats who
dropped anchor near us, cast their nets, ate dinner and left. Lisa's Beach (although Lisa seems to have left long ago)
is the perfect spot to recharge our batteries and our souls.
S/V Georgia J
Anchored at Lisa's Beach 18
41.820 s 173 59.892 w
|Was this Lisa's home?
|Lisa's Beach Anchorage
Sharon's Log 9/20/11
We have had a nice
week, moored here at Neiafu in the Vava'u island group . Vava'u is a cruisers' and bareboat charter Mecca. The
shore is lined with restaurants and bars, just my kind of place. We have caught up with several of our friends who had taken
different routes. We had intended to leave here earlier and head out to some of the many nearby anchorages, but just haven't
made it yet. Kim has busily been working on the never ending "to do list" to get Georgia ready for her big passage
to New Zealand.
The open air market here is the largest we have seen. However, their selection of vegetables is
rather limited. The selection of fruits is plentiful and we have been enjoying the largest papayas I have ever seen. Watermelons
which actually sold for $40 in French Polynesia are only $5. They also have a nice selection of crafts, mostly wooden carvings
and woven products. The market definitely seems to have a different pricing structure for the Tongans and for the palanges
(which is what they call us). The term is actually commonly used and does not seem to really be derogatory.
night, we went with some friends to join locals in a bar to watch Tonga play against Japan in rugby. The intensity of the
game was matched by the intensity of the locals watching! Oddly, the women were the most animated spectators, jumping up and
down, screaming and shouting. Those of you who have watched a Carolina basketball game with me know that is an environment
I can relate to.
This morning we woke up to crisp cooler air reminding us that before we make it to New Zealand,
I will need to find the jeans.
S/V Georgia J
Moored at 18 39.607 s 173 58.918 w
|Long Live the King of Tonga
Kim's log 9/16/11
We arrived safely
in Neiafu, Vava'u island at around noon today. The passage had a bit of everything- Strong winds with tons of water coming
over the decks, great midnight sailing with luminous particles streaming like sparks off the bow, a whale sighting and a 7.2
earthquake in Fiji, about 400 miles away which created a slight tsunami scare in the harbor.
Neiafu is a different
world compared to our last stop. There are lots of bars, markets and restaurants all of which cater to the cruising community.
Even though we were checked in to the country, we had to go to the customs, immigration and harbor master offices today. We
plan to hang out here for about three days and then explore the anchorages.
s/v Georgia J
Moored at 18 39.607
s 173 58.918 w
Kim's log 9/15/11:
We are enroute
to Neiafu in the Vava'u group of islands, Kingdom of Tonga. We left early this morning and motor sailed into pounding
8 foot seas for most of the day. The decks were totally awash and two hatches were leaking which we now have down to steady
drip. At Sharon's insistence, we finally killed the engine and put out the jib. Our speed increased and the ride became
smoother. We are currently close hauled in 12 knots of wind making 6.8 knots of speed. There are couple of stationary fronts
ahead of us, but they don't sound too serious. Neiafu is the sailing capital of Tonga with lots of charter boats and services
geared to boats. The are apparently numerous beautiful anchorages all within a hour's sail of the town.
Position 16 57.4 s, 173 53.1 w at 06:21 UTC on 9/16/11
Course 178 M, Speed 6.8 knots
109 miles from
Kim's blog 9/13/11:
went to dinner at the home of a lady who sells dinners to cruisers. There are no restaurants here. The main course was piglet
on a skewer served with the skin and head. The side dishes were mango juice, fish and baked banana. Since there were no utensils,
we ate with our hands while live pigs and dogs rooted for scrapes in the dirt under our feet. Although the food tasted good,
we were more than a little concerned about eating in an establishment which allowed live pigs to roam among the diners. The
walk through the village back to the dingy was pitch black since there is no electricity on the island and gasoline is too
expensive for people to use generators. As we stumbled along, people we could not see greeted us and wished us a good evening.
|Piggies in happier times
Kim's blog 9/12/11:
Our second day in Tonga was great. We were told that the immigration and customs
officials would contact us and come to the boat. We awoke early, put on good clothes and cleaned the boat for visitors. At
about 10:30 we heard a truck honking its horn on the dock. I saw a new Toyota pick up on the wharf and figured that this must
be an official vehicle. I took the dingy over and brought the customs man and immigration lady (who was impeccably dressed)
back to the boat. Sharon served cookies and juice while I filled out forms. We had read that dogs and parrots might be destroyed
when entering the country. When the customs man went below to check out the refrigerator, he was visibly frightened by Plato.
We assured him Plato was friendly and nothing more was said about the dog. When finished, they gave us a ride in the back
of the pickup truck to the health clinic where we completed more quarantine forms and to the bank to pay our fees and exchange
This is a beautiful island, but has been severely impacted by the Tsunami. We have heard the story of each
person who died. There was an old man who refused to let go of his two small grandchildren; the driver of a truck with five
passengers who made the mistake of returning to save the school principal, and the man who returned to his house to lock the
door. These individual deaths along with the loss of all material possessions is truly tragic.
Tomorrow we plan
to do a little snorkeling and go to dinner a Sia's home.
|Georgia J at anchor
Sharon & Kim's Log 9/12/11
We are happily anchored in Niuatoputapu in the Kingdom of Tonga. The winds were
light and seas were calm the entire way so most of our trip was by motor sailing. We arrived at the narrow entrance to the
lagoon at dawn. We had four different pieces of navigational information in order to find our way through the pass. First,
we had the electronic charts, but we knew that the charts were inaccurate by approximately 100 yards. Second, the entrance
had range markers, but we had read that these were also inaccurate. Third, we had read that the channel was well marked with
red and green buoys. We could see two large metal structures protruding from the water. However, there was no red or green
markers and we thought this might be part of a sunken ship. Finally, we had a set of GPS coordinates from a cruising book,
but these did not seem to line up with the buoys. We called for assistance from any boats in the anchorage, but no one answered.
Later a lady on shore answered and said the metal structures were the buoys. The red and green marker had fallen off long
ago. With Sharon watching on the bow, we creeped through the pass and found our way safely to the anchorage. The lagoon is
absolutely beautiful with a giant volcano as the backdrop from the neighboring island.
After our traditional celebratory
Bloody Mary arrival drinks, we were down for an afternoon nap to recover from the passage. Soon there was a knock on the hull.
Another cruiser back from church said that we had been invited to Sunday lunch at the home of the lady who answered our radio
call. Although weary, we showered and prepared to go ashore.
We went with the other cruising couple to the home
of Sia, a lovely lady who works with the Immigration office. Her role clearly is the unofficial welcome wagon. She had prepared
a Tongan feast in her modest home with no electricity or refrigeration. They do have a generator, but she said it was too
expensive for them to use very often. Sia has 3 children of her own and also seemed to have the care of a relative's infant.
We could hear an elderly man singing inside the home, so we are uncertain how many people were living in the small dwelling.
Sia served us lunch outside. She first gave us fresh squeezed mango juice. The buffet consisted of fish baked in banana leaves,
baked taro, papaya baked in coconut milk, taro, casaba, and white yams (which looked nothing like what we call yams) and cerviche.
All of the items had been baked in underground oven. Sia assured us that her family had already eaten lunch, which we doubted.
She also told us they preferred to eat the small pieces of fish on the bones, leaving the larger boneless pieces for her guest.
True hospitality is pretty much the same, worldwide.
S/V Georgia J
Anchored at 15 56.425 s 173 46.192 w
|Gathering at low tide
Kim's log 9/8/11:
We are currently in route to Niuatoputatu in
the Kingdom of Tonga. Today was a busy departure day. We started preparing the boat at 6:30 am. The check out from American
Samoa only required visits to 4 government offices. By 10:30 am we were having a pizza breakfast at Luigi's. As expected,
our anchor was stuck stuck fast on the bottom. A friend brought his scuba gear and found that our anchor rode was wrapped
around some metal debris four times. Unfortunately, the rope was chafed and may need to be replaced. This was huge favor since
the harbor is polluted. He said he would drink a bottle of Listerine to disinfect his mouth. We did give him a bottle of good
wine to wash away the taste.
After leaving the harbor, I was startled by a giant snort next to the boat. When I
looked behind me, there were two huge whales swimming along side us within 15 feet of the boat. We gradually pulled away from
them and watched their big tails slapping the water.
We will be crossing the international date line before reaching
Tonga. Although we will have two nights at sea, this journey may count as three since we move the clock forward by one day.
I feel that a day of our life will be stolen by the time change.
s/v Georgia J
Position: 14 42.7 s, 171 22.8
w at 09:50 UTC on 9/9/11
Course 236 m, Speed 6.6 knots
Motor sailing with slow 9 foot swells and 12 knots of wind